EqualiTeas at Bridge Cottage Heritage Centre

On Monday 25th June we hosted an EqualiTeas event.  Local people joined us at Bridge Cottage Heritage Centre in Uckfield for this nationwide event where we were able to celebrate and chat about the 100 years since women gained the partial vote in The Representation of the People Act 1918 – all over a nice cup of tea and homemade cake!

We had guest speaker Jeannette Towey – Wealden District Councillor, who spoke to us about democracy, her role as a women in politics.  Jeannette was first elected to Wealden District Council in a 2015.  She is a member of the Joint Planning Committee North and South; Overview and Scrutiny Committee; Planning Committee North and  a reserve member of Planning Committee South.

Jeannette shared with us details of her career and her views on gender equality from her experiences as a councillor and a local volunteer.  Wealden District Council has 17 female councillors and 38 male councillors.  East Sussex County Council has 8 female councillors and 50 male councillors.  These figures need to be addressed to reflect true gender equality and representation within ESCC.

In contrast to this under representation of female councillors we are fortunate to have a female Member of Parliament – Nus Ghani, for Wealden, in addition to a female Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner – Katy Bourne.  Jeannette felt within the professional party women are appreciated and valued.  She expressed that to get more women in politics we need to engage with more women volunteers as most of these roles are filled by men currently within politics.

The EqualiTeas debate was then opened up to the floor when Jeannette finished her talk with the question, “Why is it so difficult to get women to step forward for political roles”.  Those in attendance gave a lively, open and respectful response, discussing how they felt their ‘roles’ where defined and they did not feel able to break free from those roles.  All ladies present discussed their roles as mothers, wives, daughters and sisters and how they felt restricted by the demands of raising a family.  It was felt this is a generational attitude and we all acknowledged that those present were of a certain age group of 50+, which meant they were raised in households that held stereotypical views on the roles of women.  It was felt that this view is now changing thanks to education and family dynamics where we are seeing more equality with working roles.

More questions were posed to the debate group from the EqualiTeas pack, such as:

  • What can be done to engage people to use their hard-won vote?
  • Do we have equality across the UK?
  • Should the makeup of MPs in the House of Commons reflect the diverstiy within the UK?
  • Do you think that there are any jobs which only men or only women can or should do?
  • Do you think we should change the way we vote?
  • What does equality mean to you?
  • In a 100 years’ time, what will equality look like?

This event was held as part of our recent Women of Wealden Suffrage Exhibition, which explored the campaign Votes for Women.  If these questions spark a debate in your household or workplace join the nationwide debate and set up an EqualiTeas event near you.

Listen to Jeannette Towey, Wealden District Councillor and Nicola Stewart, Bridge Cottage Heritage Centre Education Officer speak to Uckfield FM about the event here.